It might be tempting to paint with a broad brush following recent headlines about Sheboygan area teenagers. That would be a mistake.
The alleged murder in January of his father by 17-year-old Dorian Torres at the Sheboygan apartment they shared, preceded by the slaying in September 2012 of a 78-year-old woman in her Sheboygan Falls home by 13-year-olds Antonio Barbeau and Nathan Paape, are horrific events. We must, however, guard against a tendency to use the sensational in making hasty generalizations about the direction in which our "youth" is heading.
The rumblings began after the murder of Barbara Olson and will inevitably follow the recent tragedy involving the death of Emilio Torres. People are left understandably puzzled and wonder what is wrong with "these young people today."
If we were forced to generalize it would be to the opposite extreme - the majority of our teens are just fine, thank you. You can see it in the things they do - and don't do. Life does change and each generation of young people has its own particular set of challenges and opportunities. Most teens in our area are working toward positive ways of meeting both.
That doesn't mean any of us should run the race with blinders on and ignore the very real problems many teens deal with. Drugs, alcohol, pressures to succeed, bullying and broken homes are in the mix for many teens and can spiral into a variety of negative responses.
That is no reason to throw up our hands and claim that all is lost. In fact, we must do the opposite by keeping in mind all the positive things youngsters do. Most respect their parents, teachers and other school staff. Most are engaged in the learning process, or at least haven't tuned out of it entirely. A large number are involved in extracurricular activities like sports, music and clubs that encourage academic discipline and positive behaviors.
Read the Education pages in the Herald Times Reporter each Monday and Thursday for examples of some of the good things youngsters in our area are achieving. In pure volume, these stellar student achievements far outweigh the devastation caused by those "featured" in bold front-page headlines.
Schools and educators inevitably take a hit in the eyes of the public when bad things happen, particularly if it involves criminal activity by students. That would be unfair in these particular situations. These two murders involved unique circumstances, and blaming anything related to the school setting seems far-fetched.
Can education become better? Certainly, and there are those striving to that end every day.
Can teenagers become better? Absolutely, and there are those striving to that end every day.
We wish there were no screaming headlines about young people gone bad. Unfortunately, there are.
Fortunately, there are so many good and caring kids that the continuing efforts of parents and educators is rendered not only worthwhile, but worthy. Let us all continue in that endeavor, no matter what the headline of the day.